Exercise and Sleep Patterns of Pre-Clerkship Medical Students and Self-Reported Stress Levels
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The purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship among exercise, sleep, and stress in pre-clerkship medical students.
Medical school students are known to experience stress with effects on physical and mental health. Benefits of exercise on physical and mental health have been established. Exercise behaviors and sleep patterns of medical students, and how these relate to minimizing stress, have not been studied.
Two hundred twenty-three pre-clerkship students completed a survey about exercise habits, sleep habits, and stress levels during a “typical” vs. an exam week.
Ninety-nine percent of respondents experienced stress, with increased stress during exam weeks. Ninety-one percent indicated exercise was important and met national exercise recommendations during a typical week, with decreased exercise during exam weeks. Those considering exercise less important did not meet exercise recommendations. Respondents slept significantly fewer hours than their estimated need, and fewer hours than recommended; 26 % reported excessive daytime sleepiness. Exercise was the most common method for reducing stress, followed by sleep.
Participants were knowledgeable about benefits of exercise and its relationship to managing stress. Most met recommended guidelines for exercise. Participants were less aware of sleep needs, actual sleep they were getting, and effects on daily functioning. Despite increased awareness and focus on issues of student wellness, student behavior will not automatically change. Faculty/student education, along with curricular/extracurricular options for wellness activities, must continue. Peer/professional counseling programs should be encouraged. Medical trainees with positive attitudes toward healthy behaviors are more likely to maintain their own health and to promote wellness in their future patients.
KeywordsExercise Sleep Stress Medical students Epworth sleepiness scale
The authors wish to thank the pre-clerkship students at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School who volunteered to participate in this study. The assistance of Mrs. Kerry O’ Rourke, Dr. Robert Lebeau, and Dr. Liesel Copeland is greatly appreciated.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
The study was approved as exempt by the Rutgers RWJMS Institutional Review Board.
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